UK-Ireland Jewellery Industry Unite Over Ethics

With News 4London: Industry leaders from the major trade associations and buying groups in the UK and Ireland have come together to take a lead on issues of ethics and corporate social responsibility in the jewellery industry by backing the work of the Jewellery Ethics Committee UK (JEC-UK).

At a designer-maker evening event organized by JEC-UK at the Goldsmiths’ Centre on Thursday 2 October, Chair of the Committee, Vivien Johnston, announced that the Houlden Group, the Company of Master Jewellers (CMJ) and Retail Jewellers of Ireland (RJI) will work alongside the National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG), British Jewellers’ Association (BJA) and the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A), in supporting the work undertaken by the JEC-UK.

The initiative, which began in 2009 under the stewardship of former NAG CEO Michael Hoare, who recognised the importance and potential of this emergent movement within the industry, has since been working towards researching jewellery supply chains in and around the UK market and providing recommendations for jewellers to make their businesses ethically and socially responsible.

The addition of the UK’s two largest buying groups and the largest jewellery trade association in Ireland to the JEC-UK rostrum gives further credence to the Committee’s continued work around the industry and shows how the industry as a whole is getting behind the efforts to tackle the ethical challenges that currently face the jewellery industry. It is hoped that the additional support of these organisations will urge the industry to re-examine their approach to sourcing, particularly from ethical suppliers and manufacturers, as well as how their business impacts the wider-community they trade in, whether that be at a local, national or international level.

Importantly, the initiative has now also taken roots beyond the boundaries of the UK – a hugely positive move for the future of Irish jewellers, as well as for the continued partnership between trade bodies in the UK and Ireland.

The move to support JEC-UK was broadly welcomed by RJI President, Alison Browne, who commented “I’m so pleased to be involved with the work the JEC-UK is carrying out. Ethical issues are important to our members and we welcome the opportunity to share our retailer’s experiences and address the issues collectively. I was interested to learn from the JEC Gold Paper that up to 90% of UK gold is recycled and much of that is subject to self-regulation. I am realistically at this point looking for choice for our customers where a customer can have the option to order a ring in fair trade gold”.

Browne’s sentiment was echoed by Holden Group’s Helen Haddow, who commented: ‘It is encouraging to see the development within the Ethical Trade movement over recent years. The JEC has made significant development towards educating all aspects of the industry, including the supply chain, with their protocols and procedures. These practical solutions allow the different sectors within the jewellery industry to contribute towards the responsible sourcing of product, which we at the Houlden Group fully support.”

During the evening Greg Valerio of Fairtrade Gold presented the Fairtrade ‘I Do’ campaign to stress the importance of ethics to new consumers of jewellery, whilst Vivien Johnston presented an interim report on the JEC Diamond Paper. The full paper, to be released in 2015, will aim to give retailers, manufacturers and suppliers the tools they need to understand diamond supply chains in the UK and how they can best position their business to ensure they are acting as ethically as possible.